Opinion

Made in Pennsylvania. A Model for America.

As the leaders of Pennsylvania research universities, we represent institutions that are large and small; private and public; urban and rural; ivy and land-grant. Yet, for our many differences, we are united in our commitment to serving the public good. We’re grateful for the support taxpayers have shown our institutions during challenging economic times, and we’re committed to working for our common future.

To that end, we are pursuing an unprecedented collaboration: seven universities with a single vision for reinvigorating our manufacturing industry through science, engineering and innovation. Our goal is to support the entrepreneurial efforts that will make Pennsylvania a manufacturing powerhouse, and in doing so, create high-wage jobs.

Our nation is outpacing the rest of the world’s advanced economies with the creation of 500,000 new manufacturing jobs in the last three years, and there have been significant federal and state investments in manufacturing research. But as new technologies transform industries and jobs, there is the potential to achieve much more right here in Pennsylvania. Our state has the resources, workforce, optimal geographic location and educational opportunities to fuel a manufacturing revolution.

Each year, our seven universities leverage funds raised for programs that contribute more than $31 billion in economic impact for the Commonwealth and support more than 100,000 jobs. Much of this economic impact is based on research activities.

Building upon this track record of research productivity, we’re working with the Commonwealth to establish a statewide consortium for engineering and manufacturing research. This new statewide investment will strengthen the government-university-industry partnerships that advance Pennsylvania-based innovation and research in engineering. By housing such a program at our universities, we support the research necessary to grow emerging businesses and strengthen existing industries across Pennsylvania.

Already, our universities are partnering on several high-profile, national initiatives that include: the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (namii.org) with headquarters in western Pennsylvania; and the University City Science Center (www.sciencecenter.org) in Philadelphia, the first and largest urban research park in the United States.

We’re also collaborating with hundreds of local and regional economic development organizations and industry partners. Additional investments in engineering research will expand innovation in manufacturing, lead to new companies, and develop the base for new industrial jobs in the state.

The Deloitte-U.S. Council on Competitiveness 2013 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index identifies talent-driven innovation as the most important factor in competitiveness. Universities are a hotbed of talent. We can use it to serve Pennsylvania, while better preparing our students — some 222,000 strong— to meet the rising needs for skilled trades, research and development, entrepreneurship and success in the workplace.

The fact is, we cannot revitalize manufacturing with old thinking, tinkering around the edges, working in silos and retooling timeworn strategies. Research and advancements in science and engineering are the bridge to the future and the conduit to creating high-wage manufacturing jobs.

Research and science open the door to innovation and collaborative thinking that will best prepare our future workforce.

We look forward to realizing the potential of our great state, so that ‘Made in Pennsylvania’ will be a model for our nation’s manufacturing renewal. We invite partners to collaborate with our institutions as we pursue the goal to increase research for manufacturing in Pennsylvania. Learn more at: www.PAENGN.org.

Rodney A. Erickson is president of Penn State, John A. Fry is president of Drexel University, Alice P. Gast is president of Lehigh University, Amy Gutmann is president of the University of Pennsylvania, Mark A. Nordenberg is chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh, Subra Suresh is president of Carnegie Mellon University and Neil D. Theobald is the president of Temple University

This op-ed ran in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, Nov. 10. Read it here.

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